But Russia firmly believed in the need for such a grouping, not only as an advantageous economic and humanitarian project but also as a means of building a multi-polar world and reducing the US geopolitical supremacy.
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is one of the signs of the emerging new world free of the West’s domination. There is no monolithic unity among its member states, but this is not an obstacle to their mutual integration.
Russia has never put emphasis on disagreements with some of the member states, but tried to resolve them on a bilateral or multilateral basis within the grouping. Over the years, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have established co-operation in virtually all areas, and the 10th BRICS Summit in Joburg on July 25-27 will have a busy and substantive agenda to make it a major international event.
Over the past several years the grouping of five major emerging economies has turned from a “club based on shared interests” into a full-format mechanism of multifaceted strategic partnership.
BRICS leaders meet twice a year separately and on the sidelines of G20 summits, and every year the grouping organises about 100 official events, including 20 or so ministerial ones.
The five countries have established a broad network of interaction, contact and co-operation between entrepreneurs, academics and other members of civil society.
Over the past 10 years BRICS countries have created effective co-operative mechanisms such as the BRICS Business Council, the New Development Bank, a pool of conventional currency reserves, and the BRICS Network University. They are now discussing the possibility of creating a ratings agency and a common payment system and digital currency. They are also co-operating on academic and civil tracks, through youth and women’s movements, and fight terrorism together.
The BRICS states are giving priority to joint work in science, technology, innovations, advanced medicine and planning to draft a joint agreement on co-operation in strengthening the security of information and communication technologies.
Russia is hoping to sign agreements with its BRICS partners this year to start joint energy research and create a platform for such studies to allow experts and members of academia to share information on energy markets, conduct joint reviews and eventually launch joint energy projects.
The humanitarian sphere has good prospects for development. Young performers from other member states will be invited to participate in international popular music contests in Russia.
The TV BRICS television channel has started test broadcasting. In the future it will feature Russian, Chinese, Brazilian Indian and South African programmes.
Following Western sanctions, Russia has been actively stepping up trade relations outside the US and Europe. Its exports from and imports to BRICS countries have increased by 25% over the past three years. The main export items are raw materials, agricultural produce, metals, chemical industry products and defence equipment. Imports include machines and equipment, chemicals and vehicles.
Trade in agricultural produce has been particularly brisk, with South African food literally flooding the Russian market following the ban on fruit, vegetable and food imports from Europe.
Enhancing strategic partnership with BRICS is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities. Just like the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), BRICS has been acquiring special importance for Russia not only for economic but also for geopolitical reasons. In 2014, Russia was excluded from the Group of Eight major industrialised countries. The West has started a hybrid war against Russia, which many call a new Cold War. The US is struggling to keep the unipolar world. But Moscow believes that the combined political influence of the SCO and BRICS allows them to have a say in the process of building a new world order.
Elena Vanyna is Independent Media’s stringer based in Moscow